We had quite the list of objectives going into this trip. Mostly, we wanted to do things that could lift a small bit of the load that Tom carries, and uplift our sister, whose life is ruled by her Multiple Sclerosis. And although we didn't actually have a list before going there, these were the things we discussed, planned, and hoped to get done while there:
1. Spend as much time as possible visiting with our sister, Cynthia, and her hubby, Tom.
2. Empty out the abundant boxes in, and put back together, their guest room and study.
3. Clean out the garage, which also acts as Tom's guitar workshop, and their only "storage" in the house.
4. Have a garage sale in order to a) raise funds for a hyperbaric oxygen chamber for Cynthia, and b) help them de-clutter!
5. Survive the cats. All six of them. By "survive" i mean not let my asthma get so bad that I have to go to the E.R., or our eyeballs get so swollen that we can't see.
6. Cook and freeze 35 meals for T & C to eat throughout the school year (7 different recipes to make 35 meals) and organize their kitchen cupboards.
7. Photograph the FOUR new guitars Tom has handcrafted this summer!! (thank heavens he has a hobby he enjoys this much!!!)
8. Visit Lake Monroe, a lake near their house that they go to as often as they can and that Cynthia's been raving about since they discovered it a few years back.
9. Play games with Tom and Cynthia--specifically Trivial Pursuit....which my sisters and I ALWAYS lose, yet keep coming back for more.
10. Have a Memorial Service for our mom--something for Cynthia to participate in, a chance for her to sign the guestbook, hear the hymn we sang (the one my mom composed that all her children sang at the close of her funeral), read some of my mom's poems, and have an experience together that could help fill the void that Cynthia feels from missing our mom's funeral.
We were amazing. I could try to be modest and say that we just did what any sisters would have done....buuuuuuuuut...
1. We enjoyed every minute of visit-time with Cynthia that we could. Her M.S. makes it difficult for long visits, but we had enough work to do when she was unable to visit--it actually worked out really well.
2. We cleaned and organized and de-boxed more books and stuff than you could imagine. They had a small house-fire before Christmas. The insurance company basically dumped all their belongings into these two rooms... and since "free-time" doesn't exist in Tom's life these rooms were full of random parts of furniture and 100's of boxes (mostly full of books) stacked to the ceiling. PLUS there was cat hair on every single surface. And of course there was cat dander in the cat hair. No amount of clariton was gonna keep our allergies at bay. But i suppose it helped some.... Of course i didn't get a SINGLE before picture!!! And the after one isn't great since the only 4 remaining boxes in the entire house are in this picture. But please use your imagination... and tell us, next time you see any of us, how awesome we are.
3. Tackling the garage on Day 2 was way easier than the bedrooms on Day 1. I think we'd all take saw-dust and spider webs over cat-dust and hair! And it was fun to help make Tom's workspace a little more workable! Again, no pics!
4. The garage sale was a huge success! We got tons of donations from neighbors and church friends, we met the most interesting people and have some great stories from it. We got rid of almost all the stuff, and raised over $600 for T and C!! The local bagel co. donated their bagels, we sold bottled water, handmade hairbows and we had AMAZING weather--not humid, not rainy, not hot--just awesome. It turns out that it's a huge pain to get ready for a garage sale, and i've vowed NEVER to do one again....but this one was worth every minute!!
5. The cats were....catty. Day 1 just about did us all in. But after that, I think that all three of us found our allergies weren't as bad as we'd anticipated, and for the most part, the cats left Melanie and me alone...although they loved Julia :) Is it just a coincidence that she disliked them the most out of all of us? probably....
6. Chimichangas, lentil soup, Veggie burgers, minestrone and more--all frozen, all awaiting those busy evenings when Tom doesn't have a minute to cook. I'm so glad that this objective actually happened. And while Melanie cooked, I photographed instruments, and Julia tackled the cupboards. We were amazing.
7. Just look at these guitars!!! Seriously. Tom makes these! from flat pieces of wood!!! it honestly blows my mind, it really does. And they sound absolutely AMAZING, too.
Guitar #2Guitar #3
If you know anyone who would love an amazing handmade guitar for Christmas, a birthday, or just 'cause...be sure to let Tom know!
8. The time we spent at Lake Monroe was actually the highlight of the trip for me. It was the most peaceful time of our 5 days there. The Multiple Sclerosis that rules their life, that is a part of everything they do, just disappeared at the lake. It was just us. It was a miracle that Cynthia had the energy to get out of the house, and last for so long there! We watched boats and boaters and talked and listened to waves. No M.S. No worries. No cats. No objectives. It was a beautiful moment--the kind you thank God for because it so easily could not have happened. And i brought the girls back some awesome souvenirs from this lake--a bunch of geodes to crack open! My girls LOVED them (as any Princess and the Pauper fan would!)
9. Tom and Cynthia are the King and Queen of Trivial Pursuit. You'd think it wouldn't be fun to play with them...but it is. In fact, they're my favorite people to play with...and not just 'cause the game goes by so quickly :) And this time we actually got a few wedges of our own!
10. The memorial for our mom was nice. It was cut short, so some things were left out. But we had time to read some poems and talk about our mom--all the ways we're like her, the ways we're not, and all the things we miss about her. Our brief little memorial could never make up for the fact that Cynthia missed the funeral, and didn't get to say goodbye to my mom in person. But it was something. And it always feels good to do something.
Thanks, babe, for letting me have a little sister-time.
And thanks, sisters, for a wonderful weekend!!!